I didn’t spend much time mulling this weekend, but I spent a lot of time doing things I will need time to mull over.
And when I got home yesterday, there was a fire in my fireplace. It made me so happy.
I’m almost done piecing this afghan together and then I get to put on its fancy border. It feels like it’s gone very quickly, this afghan, but I also feel like I ended up with more time than usual to work on it, so maybe it hasn’t been that short a time, just worked differently. Each square took me somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half to do, so right there, that’s 30 to 50 hours.
This morning, when I walked the dog at our usual time, it was gloriously light out and so I got to see the look on the dog’s face when he pitched himself down the hill in an effort to roll/wiggle down it. And this morning, he managed a complete roll–on his feet, down on his back, feet over body, back on his feet–which he seemed uncertain about because, while he clearly wants to get down the hill without walking, wiggling on his back down the hill is slower and I think he feels more in control. Rolling down the hill? I can tell he has mixed feelings about it. The rolls he does that take him down the hill instead of across the hill face always seem to freak him out a little.
Today, he rolled down the hill, one complete roll, and he came up from the roll with this look of grim determination–or, I mean, let’s be frank, as much “grim” “determination” as this goofball can deliver–on his face, like “Okay, yeah, I got this.” I spoke some encouraging words to him and he did seem to shake it off and look up at me with a happy smile.
But I have to tell you, I found myself really moved by it. I’m kind of tearing up right now just trying to write about it. He is a simple dog. When we got him, he didn’t understand wooden floors and he didn’t know how to run. I’m partially convinced that he doesn’t understand “no” because he’s never been allowed to do things, so how can he comprehend not doing them?
But somewhere along the way this year he seems to have formulated an idea–if rolling is fun, rolling down the hill would be super fun–and he has set out to acquire the skills he needs to make this happen. He has been learning to roll, then roll completely over, while also figuring out how to navigate down the hill without using his feet. All of these things have been fun. He takes great joy in them. But the times he has rolled down the hill accidentally I can tell have been scary as fuck for him.
But he keeps doing it and today, no, it wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t freak-out scary for him. And I swear, I don’t think I’m anthropomorphizing–I think the look he gave me when he got down the hill was pride. He did the scary thing he wanted to do and it wasn’t as scary as it had been.
And I find this marvelous, in both senses of the word. I love it and I marvel at it. Not the rolling. But watching this dumb, dumb dog slowly, over many, many, many days, months of days, practically a half year of days, formulate an idea, imagine himself doing something and then slowly make a plan for it and to work on that plan even when a component of it is scary as hell.
How does this even happen? I mean, we take it for granted. But he could not brain. When we got him, he literally could not brain. And now he has at least in this instance a sense of himself doing something I don’t think he’s ever done before. In other words, a sense of himself and a level of imagination and a desire. I mean, it’s not just that he’s problem-solving. That blows me away, considering he’s stymied by “there was a piece of pork chop in your hand and you opened your hand and where is the pork chop?! You are holding out your finger and thrusting it toward the ground. Is the pork chip stuck to your finger? Alarm! Where is the pork chop?!!!??!!!”
But it’s also that he understood he had a problem. I’m amazed that we’ve spent so long on step two, which indicates he has hope for a resolution, because I cannot understand what has happened that allows him to see that step one–I have a want and I can figure out what this want is–exists.
One thing that I admire and find confusing and lovely about dogs is that they are not human. Their brains don’t work like ours. You own a dog and you live with an inexplicable mystery that wants to sleep on the couch with you, for some reason, even though you haven’t even brushed your teeth yet. You live with a dog, you live with something that will, at heart, always be a stranger to you and yet, unlike stranger-ness in humans, it’s exactly the dog’s stranger-ness to you and your stranger-ness to it that allow you to care about each other.
So, I don’t know what’s going on in old Sonnyboy’s head. But I think there has, at least in this one way, been a paradigm shift for him and he has developed some sense of anticipation and, in order to do that, some sense of himself and of planning that I just genuinely don’t think he had before.
And I am in awe, such awe, to be witnessing it. I am seeing a new thing slowly coming into being. It’s extraordinary.